Day 24 | Washington DC and monuments

We are doing a combination bus and walking tour of some of the monuments in Washington today. It was a simple task to get their Metro in to the meeting place.  It is Veterans Day dedicated to honouring living veterans and coincides with our Armistice Day. Unlike Armistice day it is a celebration and honouring the service that veterans have provided. Here there are a lot of people going up to veterans and saying 'Thank you for your service' shaking hands and then lingering a moment. Very touching, like a lot of these customs. Flags aren’t at half-mast because this is a celebration. 

We found our way onto our bus. Our guide introduced himself as Andrew, a guy in his 20s, an aspiring actor with a passion for his city of Washington and performing as we set off. Washington is geometric and planned but monuments and buildings are far apart. Apparently, land was requested and donated by the surrounding states and a diamond of swamp was made available. While it was being formalised Arlington VA took their bit back and joined the south as the Civil War broke out. First stop the Capitol, the home of their Senate and Congress, joined by that dome. From the front lawn you see the big obelisk that is the Washington Monument (555 feet high as I remember). There’s a few fences around as things are already being finalised for the inauguration of the President on January 21. 

The next stop was the White House, which now is almost completely obscured by a concrete truck and pump behind a construction fence. Never mind. 

Next major stop was the WW2 Memorial at one end of the reflecting pool (seated Lincoln at the other). It is packed because of the day so we quickly moved on. There are a lot of school groups doing the rounds with harried teachers trying to keep everyone together. Jefferson is off to the south side over a lake. Martin Luther King Jr has a dramatic monument here. We were able to spend a few moments reading some of his quotes around a large statue. 

Being Vets Day the Korean War memorial is busy. The international contributors to keeping South Korea are listed including New Zealand and Australia. There’s even a kind of reception row for the veterans to work their way down the path of thanking kids as they approach the monument. Every time there is an arriving bus a cheer rings out.

Over at the Vietnam Memorial there’s a big solemn ceremony going on so we decide to bypass this. The Abraham Lincoln Memorial was awesome, and packed. This memorial is also the location where Martin Luther King Jr finished his march on Washington with his "I had a dream" speech. 

After this area we were to return to the bus but those of us that did waited for an hour while those that didn’t, didn’t. It was a bit of a shame but the guide, Andrew, was a bit of a drip and had no idea how to keep the 20 of us coordinated. His directions were awful and in the end we just lost some folk because he wasn’t explicit enough. The ‘tour’ we were on was interrupted by the fact that it was Veterans Day, which is something that could have been foreseen but there was no attempt to just change the stops. The advertised five hours were over in just over three.  Washington DC is the capital of monuments and neoclassical buildings, no shortage of options. 

On the return trip Andrew reminded us he was a valuable resource for us to ask advice about Washington like “where to eat”. One of the tourists asked where was good to eat, “oh, there are places all over…ah…the place.” Finally the bus driver interjected with a couple of options, sigh. 

Off to lunch and the best waiter in the world. We also had a chance to chat to a family who were visiting Washington from Florida. Angus had his NYPD sweatshirt on and they were surprised we weren’t from there. Funny about first impressions. Their kids (7 and 5) were so well behaved as we chatted. Turns out they were Keith Urban fans. They have relatives all over the states and having a bit of a reunion in Washington. 

After the formal tour we took ourselves off to the National Gallery of Art and finished the day. There they had a Da Vinci and a Monet that we hadn’t seen but also a huge number of others including some amazing American landscapes depicting the West we’d never seen. These all shut at 5pm so we weren’t there long. 

Rosie – Abraham Lincoln Monument
Angus – Amazing reneisance masterpieces at the Art gallery